Archive for February, 2010

February 23, 2010

We’ve Failed: Increasing Revenue

Have we failed as a society that values entrepreneurship, out-of-the-box thinking, business savvy-ness and capitalism?

Today I “beat the street”. No, not Wall Street. I hoofed a significant number of blocks in my local community visiting small businesses to introduce myself. One of the questions I posed to each business asked if the owners would be interested in increasing their revenue.

When I asked this question of front-line staff at businesses the owner wasn’t present – invariably there was a confused look, a stammer and an “uhh, I don’t know”.

Have we failed as a society, or an industry (a number of these businesses were foodservice), when our most significant asset, our front-line employees, do not know what “increasing revenue” means?

February 22, 2010

10% of USA Restaurants Use Social Media

Originally posted September 2009

Denver Restaurants Lead The USA In Using Social Media To Connect With Customers

Over the past two weeks, Chalkboarder.com conducted a study of social media use by restaurants in fourteen major metropolitan areas in the United States. We found some interesting results.

Denver uses more social media to connect with customers than any other metropolitan area in our study. At the bottom of our list we’ve got Philadelphia using the least Twitter, while Miami uses the least social media overall.

We’ve generated some hypotheses around our data, but first wish to continue breaking this out. Here are the results:

City Total Restaurants in Study Website% Email (direct)% Facebook% Twitter% Blog%
Atlanta 399 73 40 11 6 <1
Boston 494 61 31 8 4 2
Chicago 523 60 25 17 11 3
Dallas 367 60 30 9 7 0
Denver 237 87 50 16 14 0
Los Angeles 688 61 23 6 4 2
Las Vegas 616 36 7 8 7 <1
Miami 953 39 20 4 2 <1
New York 932 82 48 5 4 <1
Portland (OR) 168 84 50 8 10 6
Philadelphia 375 58 34 6 2 1
Seattle 549 71 39 5 5 5
San Francisco 1491 52 29 7 5 2
Wash. DC 423 72 35 13 9 2
Totals 7315 64 33 9 6

.

The purpose of this study was to gain a rough assessment of the ease a customer can have to connect with a restaurant through the virtual door of the internet and social media.

To be blunt – there’s a lot of poor website design in the restaurant industry. We’ll cover that topic in a later article. A humorous result of conducting this study is how hungry we became each day after looking at so much food.

Let’s look at the table. Chalkboarder.com studied 2175 individual restaurant listings on Urban Spoon over the past two weeks. We chose to look at the “Affordable Fine Dining” segment, representing meals in value averaging $15-25 for dinner. We chose to only look at the first 30% of the total listings in this category (user-rated) for the fourteen cities (7315 in number).

Further discovery and extrapolation gives us another surprise – only 33% had a direct email link. We do admit that we factored a bias in this particular data point – the belief that a customer will feel greater ease in connecting to a business when seeing a direct email link, not a comment form.

Now the interesting details on social media. Our study indicates that only 10% of restaurants have embraced social media (Facebook, Twitter and other networks) as a means to connect with customers.

Having said that – the only means that we used to try to discover if a restaurant was using social media was through searching their websites for a link. It is very possible that this percentage is a bit higher – it could be that they have not updated their websites to show that link.

One further note – around 2/3 of the restaurant Twitter accounts we visited had just begun, with follower counts less than fifty.

There’s a lot of dialogue in the industry right now about using social media. It was the dominant topic at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago in May. It dominates the first day of the Oregon Restaurant Association’s annual conference next week. Operators are struggling to understand the media and what best-practice is.

Some observations from our research into effective social media use by restaurants:

  • Be authentic.
  • Don’t advertise. Rather – engage and communicate directly.
  • When you begin – just listen for a while.
  • Share the inner workings of your restaurant (more in the next paragraph on that)
  • Accept criticism from social media positively – it is people wanting you to be better at what you do.
  • Tell stories of your restaurants life and of you.

Chalkboarder.com follows over 300 restaurants nationally on Facebook and just over 200 on Twitter. We’ve seen some great and outstanding examples of effective social media use. We’ve also seen some examples that “fail” (for example: only sharing your logo on your Facebook messages – no text or pics – just your logo).

There are several industry leaders who have been studying best social media practices for the hospitality industry. We certainly have our favorites that we pay attention too, such as Paul Barron of Fast Casual Magazine and Michael Atkinson of FohBoh.

There’s a huge opportunity to cement deep community with your customers through social media. There’s an opportunity to boldly go where others haven’t, yet. Using social media to build your sustainable customer base will be standard best practice in a very short time.

We certainly welcome any and all dialogue on social media use by restaurants here at Chalkboarder.com.

Jeffrey Kingman, President

Chalkboarder.com

February 20, 2010

Small Biz Social Media

I’ve become really fascinated with how small independent businesses can take advantage of emergent social web tools. Much of my professional experience has been in the non-corporate world (except for Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, GTE Sprint, and some early career positions); independents generating less than $5 million in annual revenues.

The growth challenges posed to independents are, I believe, much more difficult than that for larger organizations. With larger organizations comes economies of scale. The independent organization manager has so many more hats to wear and not nearly the time or educational resources available.

How can these organizations take advantage of the new tools of the social web? The social web research firm Wetpaint/Altimeter found that organizations with total social media engagement were able to grow their businesses by 18%. It’s no secret that the social web offers organizations opportunities, but these players aren’t able to afford the market rate for social media strategists and community managers ($100/hour and $60/hour respectively).

**Please do not think you can conduct good social media by hiring a kid with a large Facebook account – that will FAIL miserably.

How does an independent restaurant, inn or coffee house effectively compete against the multi-units in social media? This question has been rattling around my brain for the past six months and I think there is a minimum of three answers:

Do It Yourself.  Doing it yourself offers the operator complete control. It also means significant time in learning effective strategies, tools and methods. In addition, it means significant time involvement in maintaining your social media activities (production, distribution, monitoring, engagement).

Outsource To A Large Firm. Outsourcing to a large firm can be attractive because of the automation offered in distribution, monitoring and analysis. In addition, you don’t have to invest time and money in learning effective strategies, tools and methods.  The disadvantage is that your organization will still have to do the content production and the engagement, requiring your time and attention.

Hire A Small Professional Creative Company. I posit that this is the best option for the independent small business. The creative company brings all the resources for production, distribution, monitoring and engagement – crafting and executing a sound and highly individualized strategy. Time requirement for the organization is minimal, requiring meeting in person or through technology for the creative professional to gather some raw content and give reports/feedback. It’s personal and accountable.

I’m going to forecast here that 2010 will be the year we’ll see an explosion of small creative social media providers catering to small business. Market rates will be reasonable, ball-parking in the $500 to $1000 per month range. With small business being the backbone of the American economy, I believe these social media providers will become the norm.

February 5, 2010

reBlog from altitudebranding.com: Rules and Education Aren’t the Same

I found this fascinating quote today:

If you want your employees to learn social media – or anything –  don’t just hand them the list of dos and don’ts. That teaches them nothing, gives them little experience or context, and doesn’t help anything stick.altitudebranding.com, Rules and Education Aren’t the Same, Jan 2010

You should read the whole article.